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Tips for Managing a Multigenerational Workforce

Managing a multigenerational workforce presents a number of unique challenges and opportunities. Making the most of generational diversity in the workplace requires an understanding of each generations’ motivations, perspectives and needs. Below you’ll learn about each generation that’s currently in the workforce, and find tips on managing different generations of employees in your business.

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What exactly is a multigenerational workforce?

A multigenerational workforce refers to a workplace in which multiple generations are working together in the same roles and departments. The different generations currently in the workforce include:

  • Traditionalists/Silent Generation
  • Baby Boomers
  • Generation X
  • Millennials/Generation Y
  • Generation Z

Traditionalists/Silent Generation

This generation was born between 1927 and 1945. While most of this generation’s members have retired from the workforce, those who are still working are usually doing so on a part-time basis. These employees may choose to work to supplement their retirement savings or pension, or simply as a way to stay active and engaged with their community.

This generation was raised during the Great Depression, and many are exceptionally dependable, hardworking and loyal. They tend to prefer in-person interaction rather than communicating through technology. Members of this generation are generally team players who get along well with others. They’re often comfortable sitting in on meetings and lectures and may be less inclined to incorporate technology into the workplace.

Baby Boomers

Baby Boomers were born between 1946 and 1964, following World War II. Workers who are Baby Boomers didn’t grow up with the technology used today, so they’re accustomed to making phone calls and writing letters, which helps to strengthen their interpersonal skills. Most grew accustomed to technology as they got older and are now comfortable with using cell phones and tablets.

In a multi generational workforce, Baby Boomers are know for having a strong work ethic, and some of their self-worth comes from professional achievement. These workers are also highly competitive and goal-centric, as well as self-assured and independent. They aren’t afraid to question authority although they tend to follow the rules.

This generation is also highly resourceful and disciplined. Like the generation before them, they thrive in a team environment, whether in-person or online.

Generation X

This generation is also known as the Sandwich Generation and was born between 1965 and 1980. With Generation X came a stronger emphasis on a healthy work-life balance. They’re independent, self-sufficient and resourceful. They value both freedom and responsibility in the workplace and embrace a hands-off management philosophy.

This was the first generation to grow up with computers, and they’re comfortable with smartphones, tablets, laptops and email. They’re ambitious and eager to learn new skills but like accomplishing things on their own terms.

Millennials/Generation Y

This was the first generation to reach adulthood in the new millennium, and they were born roughly between 1980 and 2000. Millennials are known for being successful, driven and tech-savvy, but those who are overly dependent on technology may lack some of the interpersonal skills that older generations have.

These young workers are often good at multitasking, and they can usually manage multiple responsibilities at once. They also appreciate instant feedback, are hardworking and are deadline-oriented.

Millennials typically thrive in work environments where they feel appreciated. They prefer a flexible environment and want to work for companies that value community-centered causes.

They’re often team-oriented and enjoy collaborating within a multigenerational workforce, but they can work well independently too. They also tend to adopt a straightforward communication style and transparency with their managers and coworkers.

Generation Z

Generation Z, which includes those born between 1995 and 2012, is also now beginning to enter the workforce. This generation is characterized as being independent, self-confident and autonomous. They’re technologically advanced and learned how to use a smartphone, tablet and other tech devices from an early age. This generation values an eco-friendly and healthy lifestyle.

Because they can process and absorb large amounts of information quickly, Gen-Z workers can easily handle multiple tasks at once. This generation is also committed to intellectual growth and is expected to be the most highly educated generation, as they’re growing up in an era where knowledge can be accessed quickly and inexpensively online.

Related:How to Manage Employees

Five multigenerational management practices to try

Here are some management practices you can try when you find yourself managing different generations of workers:

1. Build teams with mixed ages

Create teams within your multigenerational workforce that have a blend of age ranges. Each generation can then bring its unique perspective and skills to a project. Mixed-aged teams allow older employees to share their decades of experience with younger workers, giving them a deeper understanding of a company’s operations.

Conversely, younger employees can help provide guidance and insight with innovative technology and strategies. This knowledge transfer can lead to greater collaboration and more innovative ideas. By embracing generational diversity in the workplace, you’ll ensure everyone feels valued and supported.

Related: Company culture

2. Be aware of communication preferences

Each generation comes with its own preferences for communication. Some prefer to communicate via email, instant messenger or text message, while other generations prefer phone or face-to-face interactions.It’s important to take this into consideration when you’re managing different generations of workers.

3. Create a bonus program to reward productivity and longevity

Create a bonus or reward program to reward employees both for their loyalty as well as their productivity. By rewarding longevity and productivity, you’ll make more senior employees feel valued while also showing your appreciation for the efforts of younger, less tenured workers.

Related:How to Motivate Your Employees

4. Set clear expectations

Minimize the risks of any misunderstandings among your multigenerational workforce by establishing and enforcing expectations and team norms. Once everyone knows how they should interact with one another, their superiors and their clients, there’s less room for interpersonal conflict, ageism or confusion.

5. Promote age inclusivity

Be sure that all of your employees feel valued and appreciated by making inclusivity a priority. This means ensuring that team-building events are accessible to all ages and abilities, rather than only the younger members of your staff.

Let prospective candidates, clients and customers know that you encourage generational diversity in the workplace by using age-inclusive images in your corporate communications. Focus on skills and abilities, rather than years of experience, in your job ads.

If your company uses panel interviews, aim to include members from different generations. Not only will this give you varying generational perspectives on your candidates, but it lets prospective employees know that your business embraces age diversity.

Multigenerational workforce FAQs

Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about managing a multigenerational workforce and promoting positive, inclusive generational diversity in the workplace:

How can you engage a multigenerational workforce?

Companies need to manage the strengths and weaknesses of each generation and encourage cross-generational collaboration. You can do this by:

  • Understanding the people:Ask employees about their preferences, expectations, areas of interest and strengths and weaknesses.
  • Invest in skill growth:Create career paths that map out skills employees will need to develop to grow their careers, and provide the curriculum and resources to acquire those skills.
  • Create opportunities for growth:Give employees the opportunity to work on projects outside of their immediate role to enable them to learn a lot of skills quickly.

Related: Ageism in the workplace

How can you train a multigenerational workforce?

Offer training in different formats. For example, you may want to offer one-on-one, hands-on training as well as make training available through mobile devices or online to engage your more technologically savvy employees.

What’s the best way to communicate with a generational workforce?

Effective communication involves relaying ideas and concepts in a way your audience can understand. When managing a multigenerational workforce, this means adapting your messaging to meet the needs and preferences of all of your employees.

For example, your younger workers might prefer to receive information via text messaging or emails, while your mature workers may appreciate face-to-face contact, a quick phone call or paper-based memos.

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